Less stuff makes for a happier life

Lisa Peters looks after staff wellbeing at SCFT, she decided it was time to focus on her own wellbeing with a year spent living a simpler life…

Less stuff makes for a happier life

A mid-life brain wave

Approaching 40 felt like a time for reflection and forward planning, that’s what you do isn’t it? I’m happy; I have a house, a husband and a 7 year old son along with a very old grumpy cat. But our lives were filled with commitments (work/school etc) and stuff – lots of stuff. The loft, the shed and the ‘spare’ room/office were filled to bursting with things we didn’t really use.

A holiday in Centre Parcs changed everything. I loved the little chalet, basic kitchen and clean space. We arrived with 5 days clothes and our time was ours to fill with lovely activities, I even cooked in that basic kitchen and guess what…it was fine! I started thinking maybe I should just live with a holiday mentality?

I started reading about living with less. In a society that promotes having more how would it feel to live a simpler life (chalet style!)? I decided to try. But when you are always bringing things into your life isn’t sorting it out just a waste of time…..kind of, yes! Then a lightbulb moment; I could stop bringing things in.

And so was born my idea of a year of intentional living and no spend (ish!). I told my friends in January at my birthday party, they laughed, as they know the little shopper I am, but it just made me determined to meet the challenge.

Feeling good about having less

Immediately I felt loads better. I had a year to clear out and nothing was going to come in. Now it seems silly that choice was always mine to make. First I decided to avoid clothes shops. This gets tough when clothes are everywhere from online to supermarkets, even on the TV I listened to presenters say “who doesn’t need these silver shoes?” It’s hilarious when you actually listen to the language.

After reading a book that suggested binning items that didn’t have a use or brought you joy, the great sort out began. I got rid of so many clothes (with tags in!), car booted, charity shopped bits, gave away stuff and I haven’t missed anything and wear more of what I kept. Getting dressed is much simpler now.

Once I started I found it quite addictive; sweeps really worked for me. You do the obvious not needed stuff first and once you’ve gained some confidence you go back over an area and review and downsize again. This made me focus on what I actually used.  On the next sweep I was comfortable to let more go. It also made me question why we had so many towels for 3 of us. Why we have items in cupboards not being used? Why we buy duplicates when one is enough?

Reducing waste reduces stress too

I haven’t shopped for clothes for 10 months now (exceptions are I needed a swimming costume in the summer and tights for the winter).  I haven’t bought any toiletry items apart from shower gel and shampoo/conditioner, I have used up everything I had, and still have enough body lotion to start next year.  As my year draws to a close what have I learnt?

I haven’t missed anything but love the space in my home, which is easy to clean, I loose practically nothing and everything has a place (all the plastic pots don’t fall out the cupboard when I open it, something I never changed but drove me mad!)

I also applied de-cluttering to my time and stopped filling it to exhaustion levels. Although over this year we have chosen experience over possessions so have been on 13 trips/holidays/weekends away with friends and packing was so easy! I only travel with hand luggage or a small holdall. When we get home I can be unpacked with a wash on and a cuppa within 30 minutes (impressive, but also weird that I timed it!)

Quality life experiences

It’s leaked into other areas of life too; I gave up TV soap operas , instead I spend time in the garden talking with my husband beside the chiminea, or actually reading a book.

I enjoy cooking again because I have time to experiment and bake at weekends. I’ve developed an amazing meal planner for the week which means my shopping bill has almost halved and I create no waste.

I don’t say to my son “in a minute” quite so much and we spend much more valuable time together, playing and making a mess, because it’s easier to tidy up. I also have more time to give back to others; I have done more for charity (as I have more money) and my community, and have the energy because I don’t always have a job to do at home.

Stuff owns us if we let it, it takes time to choose, clean, order, maintain and then get rid of. I chose to own how much stuff I have – and it’s been amazing. Another year? Bring it on!